The Null Device

Bobby Fischer speaks

The Graun sends a reporter to Iceland to catch up with Bobby Fischer, former chess master turned paranoid lunatic, who spends most of the time ranting about how the Jews are out to get him.
As he is leaving Copenhagen, he is cornered in a car park by the agitated man from Channel 1 and gives some characteristically robust quotes - to summarise, death to the Jews, death to Japan, death to America, death to George Bush. (Probably death to Tony Blair, too - Fischer refused to fly via London because he feared he would be grabbed by the police there.) Anyway, Fischer has let off steam, the Channel 1 man's job is saved, we have a news story.
Fischer has an obsession with detail that, to my non-medical eye, appears autistic. When he recites his suffering at the hands of the US and now the Japanese, every letter he has received is cited, dated, described exactly. His is a world of tiny details; it is the bigger picture that eludes him, so he falls back on one stupid overarching theory - the world Jewish conspiracy. The Icelandic view that he is a lovable eccentric is a cop-out. He is a paranoid fantasist. But he is deluded not dangerous; Howard Hughes rather than Adolf Hitler. Mastery of detail, obsessionalism, relentless concentration, the ability to shut out the world are advantages in chess; in life they can be a disaster, especially when there is no screen between what you say and what you think.

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